Breastfeeding is important to the health and wellbeing of mothers and their babies. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies start breastfeeding within one hour of life and that they should be exclusively breastfed for six months. Following this, breastfeeding should continue for up to two years of age or beyond with the introduction of complementary foods at six months in order to meet the nutritional needs of the child.
Evidence demonstrates that breast milk provides all the nutrition an infant needs in early life, as well as promoting cognitive and sensory development. Breast milk gives health benefits to both mother and infant in the short-term and long-term.
In the short-term, studies suggest that breastfed infants have a reduced risk of gastrointestinal illness (e.g. infant diarrhoea), respiratory tract infections, ear infections and atopic (allergic) disease. Continued breastfeeding allied with the introduction of appropriate weaning foods can also reduce infant mortality.
In the longer term, breastfed infants are less likely to have high levels of blood pressure and blood cholesterol in adulthood and are less likely to be obese or develop type 2 diabetes. According to a 2019 WHO research, children who are never breastfed are 22% more likely to be obese and those who have been breastfed for less than six months are 12% more likely to be obese compared with children who were breastfed for six months.
The proportion of mothers initiating breastfeeding in Knowsley during 2016/17 was 48.4%, an increase of over 4% from 2015/16. Since 2010/11, there has been a 10% increase in Knowsley breastfeeding initiation rates. However, Knowsley had the lowest proportion of mothers who initiated breastfeeding in the Liverpool City Region during 2016/17, significantly lower than the other five local authority areas, this has been the case since 2010/11
Since 2015/16 breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks in Knowsley has remained fairly stable increasing from 18.0% in 2015/16 to 19.2% in 2016/17 with most recent figures in 2017/18 reported as 18.9%. However in Knowsley figures remain significantly lower than England (42.7%) and all other areas in the Liverpool City Region.
The challenges for Knowsley around breastfeeding relate to factors that influence breastfeeding e.g. birthing mothers in Knowsley are often younger, white British women who are less likely to breastfeed. High rates of deprivation are also associated with low breastfeeding rates. Changing cultural norms to make breastfeeding the predominant feeding method among mothers in Knowsley is a slow process which will require multi-disciplinary and multi-agency working to ensure consistency of information on the value of breastfeeding.
The full JSNA report can be found here: JSNA Reports – Breastfeeding
Published: June 2019
- Knowsley Child Health Profile – http://www.chimat.org.uk/resource/view.aspx?RID=242326
- Knowsley Breastfeeding Action Plan – http://www.knowsley.gov.uk/pdf/breastfeeding-action-plan-for-knowsley-2015-2017.pdf